Colin Rodgers came very close to taking his talents to Auburn University. That may be a little surprising since he grew up 45 minutes from the campus of Louisiana State, Auburn's bitter Southeastern Conference rival. Still, Rodgers had his heart set on pitching for Auburn next season.
"It was my dream school," Rodgers said.
Before he could make anything official, the Royals selected him last month in the third round of the First-Year Player Draft and made what Rodgers called a "good offer" -- a reported $700,000 signing bonus, well above the slotted $476,500 for his draft spot. That about settled it.
"I always wanted to play at Auburn," Rodgers said. "But I thought it was time to chase my biggest dream. It's always been the main goal to make the Major Leagues, and that was the first step. ... I'm definitely not regretting it."
That decision seemed more sound Friday night as the 18-year-old left-hander pitched six hitless innings in Rookie-level Burlington's 5-2 win over Bristol.
Rodgers allowed only one batter to reach base -- Jose Barraza was hit by a pitch with two outs in the second. After that, the 6-foot, 180-pound hurler retired the final 13 White Sox he faced. He finished with three strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
The Louisiana native, who caught some eyes before the Draft thanks to a plus curveball, acknowledged that his fastball was the main source of his success Friday.
"I probably threw about 80 percent fastballs tonight," he said. "Keeping it in and out, working both sides of the plate really seemed to keep the hitters off-balance. Then I worked in a few changeups and curveballs to keep them honest."
Rodgers said he wasn't focused on the no-hitter until Burlington manager Tommy Shields notified him that his night was over.
"I never really pay attention to any of my stats while I'm on the mound. It doesn't matter, really," he said. "All I'm trying to do is get guys out and focusing on the next batter. That's why I don't even look until I'm completely done."
The outing was the longest of Rodgers' four-game professional career, besting the 3 2/3 frames he tossed in his previous start on Sunday. Combine that with the fact that he did not give up a hit and Rodgers couldn't help but think that Friday was one of his best moments in baseball.
"I've [been in no-hitters] in high school, but nothing was nearly as exciting as this," he said. "I'll definitely have more like that as I go along, but words can't really explain how I feel about this right now. It's one of the best feelings ever."
Rodgers' night was one out away from going from memorable to historic.
Lincoln Rassi, a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Toledo, relieved Rodgers and retired his first eight batters before walking Jake Brown with two outs in the ninth. Kale Kisler followed with a two-run homer that broke up both the no-hitter and the shutout.
It would have been the first no-hitter in the Appalachian League since Tim Shibuya, Garrett Jewell and Steven Gruver combined on one for Elizabethon last July 16.
"I'm sure some guys were disappointed because they said they had never been involved in a no-hitter before," Rodgers said. "But we still got the win, and that's the main point every night."
Fred Ford walked twice and hit a three-run homer in the second to provide the bulk of the Royals' offense.